|recipe and image: epicurious.com|
My son had to do a big project for his cultural party. First, he had to pick a country. I slightly manipulated him into picking Israel, because we are half-Jewish and it's the only foreign country where he has real cousins residing. I told him that we would make latkes. He had never eaten a latke, and to be honest, I haven't eaten a latke since I was around nine, and I've never cooked them. Still, I enthusiastically filled out the form and sent it back to his teacher.
Then the world came crashing down around our ears. A beloved classmate died unexpectedly. The whole family got the flu. Big Pants missed school for a week. Suddenly, the project was due and we had one night to do it, plus make the latkes. This entailed creating a banner, a flag, and ornament all of which had to contain researched facts. It wasn't that much work, really, but it was a pile of stuff to do. I knew I wasn't going to have time or energy to make latkes for twenty.
I asked two "real" Jewish friends (not half, like me) if there was some sort of cheat I could use. Like perhaps frozen hash browns or something. They both denied all knowledge of any such half-assed latke making technique.
I got potatoes, which Big Pants happily peeled. I went out and bought a grater. I held the potato and slid it across the grater, and realized this was more work, time, effort, energy, than I was capable of. This was going to take FOREVER.
My S.O. wandered into the kitchen, innocently thinking he could refill his coffee cup and escape again, but when he saw my slumped shoulders he stepped up to the plate. He taught Big Pants to grate, and that boy grated all the potatoes and chopped all the onions -- the two of them laughing over the grunt work. All I had to do was fry 'em up in a pan.
I fried, and was unsure if I was creating something at all successful. Big Pants held up the recipe with glee, "Mama, it looks just like the picture!" Success!
It turned out that this latke cooking event that I had dreaded for days saved us. It was the first time that laughter and smiles were sustained for a long period of time. It was like we were all normal again. We even succeeded at making an edible product that every one liked except Tiny Pants, who refused to try them.
I always understood the idea of "food is love" to mean, "since I love you, I will cook for you." I never really understood that making food together can be love. That everyone chopping and slicing and laughing together in a hot kitchen is an experience we all really needed, much more than we needed latkes.
Turns out, they sell Latkes frozen at Trader Joe's, but I'm glad I didn't know that at the time. I wouldn't trade last night for all the perfect easily reheated latkes in the world.